HC Deb 04 June 1913 vol 53 cc905-6

I beg to move, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable leaseholders to become freeholders on fair terms."

I ask leave to introduce this Bill with the full conviction that there is no social reform more urgently needed. Parliament, in solicitude for agricultural districts and slums, is overlooking the custom under which shopkeepers, dwellers in town houses, and tenants of thousands of working men's cottages in mining districts suffer. Large sums of money fall into the hands of freeholders who have done little or nothing to create it, it having been in fact created by the individual efforts of the leaseholders in particular and the community in general. The South is the burning centre of injustice. I believe the present leasehold system tends to bad building, and at the end of a lease it operates in allowing dwellings, mostly inhabited by the working classes, to become empty. The evils of the present leasehold system are admirably set out in the inquiries made by the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes and the Town Holdings Commission. The latter says:— We are of opinion that the conversion of leaseholds into freeholds would often promote improvements and encourage the development of trades and businesses by giving lessees the opportunity of securing the full benefit of their outlay in improvements, and the full value of any goodwill they may have created. It would also get rid of some minor incidents of leasehold tenure which are felt to be of an irritating character and would tend to remove the feeling of grievance among lessees, which, to whatever extent it may be well founded or not, exists among them. This Bill gives compulsory power to purchase the freehold at a fair sum, which, in case of disagreement, is to be settled by the County Courts. The object is to obtain easy and simple machinery, which shall not be too cumbrous and too expensive, to enable every leaseholder to become his own landlord. There is an alternative proposal of perpetual rent charge in lieu of purchase. This question has been discussed on two previous occasions, in 1889, when the Second Reading was lost by twenty-one votes, and in 1891, when it was lost by thirteen votes only. It ought not to be a party question, because both parties are equally anxious to promote the exercise of thrift, and there can be no better and no more tempting investment than to buy a house as a home for a mart and his family, which will tend to raise his self-respect and make him in every way a better member of society. This is not a revolutionary proposal, and lion. Members on this side of the House ought to give it their warmest support, for there can be no doubt that to create more proprietors and to give a larger stake in the country to all classes will tend to make them more sober and quiet in the views they may take in political changes. The time has gone by when we can put a thing on a pedestal and say it shall never be interfered with when it has been found that it is against the general good of the community. I hope the House will accept the Bill, as it is an eminently practical proposal.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Arthur Strauss, Sir John Spear, Mr. Atherley-Jones, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Hay Morgan, Mr. Touche, Mr. Glanville, Mr. Goldman, Mr. Martin, Colonel Pryce-Jones, Mr. Shirley Benn, and Sir John Rees. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Wednesday, 2nd July, and to be printed. [Bill 193.]